For Olivia Houck, a student at McLean High School, this spring break will be like no other.
She will be traveling to Ireland for the Irish Dance World Championship in Ennis, Ireland, along with her teacher, Sean Culkin, and two other dancers from the Culkin School of Irish Dance in Silver Spring.
“I’ve been dancing for about three and a half years,” she said, after learning about Irish Dance from some dancers she’d seen performing at a restaurant.
She joined the Irish Dancing Team at McLean High School when they recruited her in middle school and met Culkin at one of their performances and decided to switch to his school, despite the lengthy trip.
“On week days it takes about an hour each way to and from class and I’m in class four day a week,” she said. “My mom really didn’t want me to do it at first, but she got sick of me whining about going to class. She really likes it now, she likes the traveling, but it does get stressful.”
Unlike many of her fellow dancers, Houck said she hadn’t seen Riverdance until about a year ago, when she’d already started taking classes.
“My friends at school love it,” she said. Last year, she started an Irish dance club at school, which currently has four members who perform twice a year at the school.
“This is my sport. It’s more artistic than soccer… it’s like theater and music and art all at the same time,” she said. “With running, you can only get so much faster, but with dancing you can always learn more.”
At the World Championship, she will be dancing a slip jig and a treble jig. If she is recalled for another round, she will perform a dance called “The Downfall of Paris.”
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I figure there’s no way I’ll win, so I’m just excited to travel. I’m lucky to go.”
She will be accompanied to Ireland for a week with her parents, along with Phillip Stacy and Cierra O’Keefe, classmates at the Culkin School. Two other students, Kelly McGovern and Kayle Borenstein, a Bethesda resident, also qualified for the competition but are not making the trip next week.